Nigeria joins the rest of Africa every 21st October to commemorate the African Human Rights Day. This is a Day set aside by the regional body under the auspices of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights to reaffirm commitment to the principle of the dignity and equality of all human beings and to seek among other objectives the promotion, respect for Human and Peoples Rights and fundamental freedoms for all Africans without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.
The Theme of this year's celebration, “Upholding the Human Rights of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa”, is apt given the devastating effects of insurgency in many parts of Africa which has created internal and external displacements
Recent studies indicate that internal displacement is as result of human made disasters, armed conflicts, ethno - religious- political conflict, but worsened by extreme poverty, lack of equal access to socio - economic resources, high unemployment rate, among able- bodied and frustrated youths as well as environment induced displacements like flood, erosion, earthquake etc. The issue of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) raises serious concerns all over the world. This occurs majorly as a result of armed conflicts, economic hardship often occasioned by corrupt and inept leadership, natural and human-induced disasters amongst oth
A key factor compounding the plight of displaced people in Africa is the weak or non - existent process of an enabling legislation to assist and protect the victims. The Kampala Convention for the protection and assistance of IDP'S in Africa came into force in December 2012 and remains the only major instrument of protecting the displaced Persons. There is need for the domestication of the Kampala Convention to take maximum benefit of the provisions for the protection of IDPs in Nigeria.
National and Regional responses to the plights of the displaced persons have generally remained abysmally low. A fundamental tenet underlying the Guiding Principle on Internally Displacement is that states have obligations to protect and assist displaced persons based on international laws in situation of armed conflict.
While a global estimate of Displaced persons in the last decade is put at 25 million, half of the population resides in Africa. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), at the end of 2018, some 41.3 million people were internally displaced due to armed conflict, generalized violence or human rights violations across the globe.
It is therefore imperative to note that Africa habours a big chunk of these global crisis owing to the incessant conflicts induced by religious intolerance, tribalism and inequitable distribution of available resources and other forms of discrimination.
The benchmark for human rights can hardly be met if deliberate actions are not taken by the authorities in line with the Kampala Convention and other related international instruments to redress the rights of people in dire need of protection.
In Nigeria alone there are over 2 million displaced people. In the first half of 2019 about 142,000 new displacements were recorded in the country. A total of 140,000 by conflict and 2,000 by disaster respectively. While some efforts are made by humanitarian and faith based organizations and government agencies to address some of the challenges of the displaced persons, their vulnerability tend to be in the increase as a result of continued hostilities.
Displaced Persons in Nigeria suffer from multiple challenges and abuse ranging from human rights violations such as discrimination, sexual violence and deprivation of means of livelihood. The loss of access to home, lands and livelihoods, personal documents, family members, social networks affect the displaced persons from enjoying the entire range of fundamental human rights. In most cases they depend on others for basic needs such as shelter, food and water. At the same time the absence and search for health care, education, employment, economic activities etc increases their vulnerability.
The Role of NHRC
The National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria (NHRC) has maintained strong and impactful presence in the North East addressing the humanitarian challenges occasioned by the Boko Haram conflicts in that region. In collaboration with the UNHCR the Commission deployed human rights monitors in the affected communities as well as IDP camps.
The NHRC is championing a policy on Protection of Civilians and Civilian Harm Mitigation in Conflict in Nigeria. So far the draft policy document is awaiting approval of the Federal Executive Council. The project which is aimed at safeguarding the security and welfare of Nigerian citizens in areas affected by conflict is in collaboration with Centre for Civilian in Conflict (CIVIC), an international organization working on protection sector.
The international community has made significant progress in providing assistance to protect refugees and IDP'S and to uphold the rights of the Internally Displaced Persons. However, it is the primary responsibility of the Federal and State Governments to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to Internally Displaced Persons and refugees within the Nigerian territory as provided by the UN guiding principle on Displacements. This may amongst several others entail improved budgetary allocations to humanitarian monitoring and protection, training and retraining of care givers and building the capacities of law enforcement agents to be able to carry out their duties in strict compliance with the law, devoid of further violations of the rights of Refugees, Returnees and IDPs.